Let’s cut to the chase—dealing with money is tough. From trying to cover your monthly expenses to attempting to plan for the future, personal finance can be overwhelming. We aren’t magicians, so we can’t promise we can make handling your money easy. However, we do have a few tricks up our sleeve to make budgeting and financial planning easier (it’s all relative).

Read on for four simple ways to get started.

#1 Honesty is Always the Best (Budgeting) Policy 

You can lie to yourself about your financial habits, but the numbers don’t lie—follow the money and see where it goes applies to smart budgeting, too. 

You won’t be able to plan for the future if you don’t have a realistic idea of where you’re starting from. Diligently (and honestly!) tracking your spending is an essential part of creating your budget. You might not want to know how much you spend on snacks each week, but trust us—honesty really is the best policy. 

#2 Help is Out There

If seeing how much money you spend makes you sweat, relax. You don’t have to embark on your financial journey alone. In fact, we strongly suggest you do the exact opposite. If you don’t know who to turn to, try making an appointment with:

Sometimes these professionals even offer free consultations to help you determine if their services are a good fit for you. If you aren’t ready to schedule an appointment, start by making a few phone calls to get an idea of your options.

#3 Break Your Goals Down into Manageable Steps

Telling yourself you’re going to “create a financial plan” or “start budgeting” can feel like biting off more than you can chew. Baby steps lead to big changes, and outlining concrete financial goals will make you more likely to accomplish them—if you’re saving up for something tangle that you really want or need, it’s a lot easier to care about the outcome. 

We recommend creating two lists: long-term and short-term goals. Your lists might look something like this:

Bonus tip: These are just examples, so feel free to tailor your list to meet your needs. If you love crossing things off a to-do list, you can make your set of goals even more detailed. If seeing a long list stresses you out, you can just as easily stick to big-ticket action items. 

#4 Give Yourself Some Wiggle Room

Our final tip may seem unconventional but hear us out. If you’re too strict with your budget and financial plan, you’ll be more likely to throw in the towel. We want you to enjoy life (and we imagine you do too); sometimes that means taking a last-minute trip or buying that way-too-expensive bottle of champagne. 

The trick is setting aside an emergency fund, except the emergency is, well, you need to have some fun.  

This way, when you do “splurge,” you’re not really splurging at all. You’re dipping into your fun budget, just like you would your grocery, utility, or rent budgets. Sticking to a plan doesn’t mean you have to feel deprived or restricted. In fact, many people actually feel a greater sense of financial freedom when they start budgeting, since it alleviates guilt that can come along with unplanned spending. 

We Hope You’re Feeling Better Already

They say that nothing good in life comes easy, but that doesn’t mean you have to make things hard on yourself. Financial planning doesn’t have to be a constant uphill battle—start with these easy adjustments, and you’ll be at the summit in no time. 

We’re excited to see your hard work pay off, and we know you’re going to enjoy the fruits of your labor as well. Happy budgeting!